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Applying for Jobs in the Game Industry

This document is based in part on a keynote address given by Michael Capps, President of Epic Games, which opened the 2007 Game Developers eXpo (GDX) in Savannah, Georgia.

A Proposed Model
In the gaming industry, it is understood that job candidates possess a high level of computer proficiency.  Employers expect that a candidate's resume will reflect that expertise.  While the simulation industry prefers a traditional (professional-style) resume, the gaming industry favors a multimedia experience on par with the applicant's skill.

This document proposes a model resume for Game and Simulation Programming based on this industry expectation.  Such a digital resume should be delivered via any of the following formats:
  • CD
  • DVD
  • Internet website
According to Michael Capps, websites are the preferred method of delivery - at least for Epic Games.  Employers will often review resumes en masse, considering as many as fifty candidates in a day.  CDs and DVDs can take time to load, and the less time it takes for an employer to access a portfolio, the better.  Websites, on the other hand, load in a matter of seconds.

Digital resumes should include at least three sections:
  • A cover sheet
  • A traditional "paper" resume
  • A digital portfolio
While the cover sheet and resume are well-understood, the digital portfolio requires a bit of an explanation.

Digital Portfolios
A digital portfolio is a dynamic collection of media files - from text documents to videos to executable programs - that serves to reinforce a student's resume and demonstrate areas of expertise.

The question of what to include in a digital portfolio can be addressed through a series of heuristics, namely:
  1. The applicant should showcase his or her best work
  2. The content should be accessible in both low- and high-quality
  3. The applicant should demonstrate his or her versatility
While the industry tends to devalue student projects, entry-level applicants may not have a considerable portfolio to draw from, and class assignments may be the only content available.  Regardless, the student should select the assets which best represent his or her area of expertise.  In the case of content created by groups, it is important that the applicant identify which aspects of the work he or she created.

Where applicable, the student should showcase their portfolio in varying degrees of quality.  That is - especially with movie files delivered over the Internet - the student should supply both a low and high resolution video.  In this way, employers can preview the student's work quickly, and if they choose, can take the time to investigate further with higher quality videos.

Finally, employers are interested in versatile applicants.  It is important for students to have an area of expertise (such as programming), but a valuable employee will be able to take over other responsibilities (for example, 3D modeling) when their time on a project has ended.  As such, a digital portfolio should showcase the student's main talent, but also highlight other areas of strength and flexibility.

The Interview Process
Interviews in the game industry function somewhat differently from those in more traditional industries.  While a suit and tie may be acceptable for a job interview in simulation, in game development, applicants should dress according to the culture of the company they are applying to.  This means jeans and t-shirt may be appropriate!  It is the candidate's responsibility to determine the level of professionalism expected when it comes to dress.

Michael Capps mentioned how a male job applicant arrived at an interview wearing a dress.  He did not, however, disclose whether this person actually got the job.  However he did recommend dressing to make the employers feel comfortable during the interview.

Like in any job interview, the applicant should express knowledge of the company and enthusiasm for the opportunity of employment.  Capps recommended using such phrases as "I'd love to learn from the talented individuals here," as ways to demonstrate such interest.

Employers may be screening for individuals who harbor a secret desire to design games.  According to Capps, there is a tendency to reject applicants that are suspected of using a programming position to secretly work towards a design position.  In short, candidates should express a willingness to work on other people's ideas, rather than signifying they have ideas of their own.

Upon completion of the interview, Capps suggested that the applicant should follow up after a day or two with an e-mail, thanking the employers for taking the time to meet with him or her.  After that, the applicant should not contact the employer unless their situation has changed - for example, another company has offered a position.
© 2011 David J. Sushil.  All Rights Reserved.  For more information, e-mail davidjsushil@gmail.com.